This Week In 1991: December 1, 1991
It's one thing for a Eurodance act or even an American house outfit to misappropriate vocals and pretend some pretty model (or two) is actually singing, but that kind of thing just doesn't fly in Australia. Except for that one time it did, on a song that debuted on the ARIA singles chart this week in 1991.
A dance record crossed over from the clubs to the top 50, eventually going all the way to number 1. The thing was: it wasn't the perky blonde in the music video whose voice we were hearing on the track.
The singer at number 1 this week in 1991 might have done a lot of odd things, but not performing on his songs wasn't one of them. Michael Jackson, who Right Said Fred clearly weren't too sexy for, ascended to the top of the singles chart with "Black Or White" — a position it would retain for eight weeks in total.
Off The Chart
Number 98 "I Wanna Be Your Girl" by Icy Blu
Peak: number 88
Australia hadn't seemed to mind when she ruined "Push It", but thankfully everyone came to their senses and didn't rush out to buy Icy Blu's pretty painful slow jam follow-up.
Number 97 "It Should've Been Me" by Adeva
Peak: number 83
The three singles she'd so far placed in the 30s had all deserved to chart higher, so there was little hope for this decent (but not fantastic) slice of piano house to do better than this.
Peak: number 80
Individually, they'd both enjoyed massive hits in Australia, but this Diane Warren-penned duet, originally recorded by Starship, failed to match its US top 10 success locally.
Peak: number 58
BMG Records hedged its bet by selecting three songs to be Single Of The Week this week. We'll see the other two elsewhere (one as a top 50 entry, one as a breaker), but Beatfish's follow-up to "Wheels Of Love" also featured as a breaker this week. I don't remember hearing "All Around The World" at all at the time and it's certainly not as good as "Wheels Of Love", but there's something about its "Road To Nowhere" meets "Strike It Up" feel that I don't mind.
Number 50 "The Globe" by Big Audio Dynamite II
Peak: number 8
Back in August, "Rush" sneaked into the top 50 at exactly the same position before eventually going on to top the chart. Would a similar fate await this follow-up? Not quite. "The Globe" also made slow progress up the chart but only got as far as the top 10, peaking in late February. The title track of Big Audio Dynamite's album sampled "Should I Stay Or Should I Go" by singer Mick Jones's former group The Clash.
Number 47 "Please Don't Ask Me" by John Farnham
Peak: number 21
In 1980, John Farnham's first comeback had started out strongly, with a top 10 placing for his cover of The Beatles' "Help!". Subsequent singles from the Uncovered album weren't as successful, including third release "Please Don't Ask Me", which got no further than number 67 in early 1981. A decade and a much more successful comeback later, John followed three chart-topping studio albums with the obligatory just-in-time-for-Christmas live album, Full House. The album collected songs performed during his three most recent tours, including weepy ballad "Please Don't Ask Me", which was released as a single and finally became the hit it had never been 10 years earlier.
Number 46 "Keep Coming Back" by Richard Marx
Peak: number 34
It was third album time for Richard Marx, and he decided to move away from his standard mix of power-pop/rock and piano ballads. The first single from Rush Street, "Keep Coming Back" veered more towards R&B — old school rhythm and blues rather than new fangled new jack swing, that is. He even got Luther Vandross to sing backing vocals on the track. Although the song was a number 12 hit in the US, Australia wasn't as receptive — and "Keep Coming Back" became his smallest top 50 hit to date.
Number 45 "House Of Hope" by Toni Childs
Peak: number 39
In August, Glenn Frey's contribution to the Thelma & Louise soundtrack missed the top 50 but this track by Toni Childs — the title track of her second album — did the trick. The fact that it was the follow-up to her biggest ever hit, "I've Got To Go Now", no doubt had a little something to do with it, although "House Of Hope" is a strong enough song to have succeeded regardless. In fact, it's probably my second favourite single by Toni — following "Don't Walk Away" — a subtle slow groove with a more restrained than usual vocal.
Number 44 "Under My Skin" by Deborah Conway
Peak: number 34
Next up, a single that was actually my favourite ever released by Deborah Conway — as part of Do-Re-Mi or as a solo performer (not including her performance as the real singer of the fantastic "Sweet And Sour" by The Takeaways). Deborah's second solo single, "Under My Skin" had a harder edge than "It's Only The Beginning" but was just as melodic — catchy enough for me to buy it on cassingle. Unfortunately, it was nowhere near as big as her debut solo effort and would end up being her final top 50 appearance.
Peak: number 7
In late November 1991, I'd left Australia to go to Paris as part of a school trip, and I distinctly remember flicking through Billboard in the Virgin megastore on the Champs-Élysées at some point in December and seeing this song sitting in the Australian top 10 on the world charts page. I had no idea who Tomislav Ivčić was and became slightly obsessed with knowing what his hit sounded like. Obviously, I realised it was a protest song about the conflict in what we then referred to as Yugoslavia — a subject that no doubt prompted many expats to rush out and buy it. In two weeks' time, "Stop The War In Croatia" was inside the top 10, where it stayed for two weeks and then promptly dropped out of the top 50 within another two weeks. As it turned out, the song was a hymn-like ballad and one-hit wonder Tomislav was a popular Croatian singer who went on to pursue a career in politics — a career that was cut short when he was killed in a car accident in 1993.
Number 36 "Love You Right" by Euphoria
Peak: number 1
Thanks to my absence from Australia during December 1991, I also didn't hear this song until January 1992, by which point it had already become quite a big hit — something the brains behind Euphora, producer/writer/singer Andrew Klippel, never expected. After all, Australian dance tracks didn't become number 1 hits. Well, this one did. Like Melissa's chart-topping debut single, "Read My Lips", "Love You Right" received a little help from being played in E Street. The music video even featured cast member and future ubiquitous choreographer Kelley Abbey, not to mention a still shirtless and gyrating Simon Baker-Denny fresh from his appearance in the "Read My Lips" clip. This time, Simon, like all the pretty models in the "Love You Right" music video, mimed along to the vocals.
The thing was, it was made to look like one of those models, Holly Garnett, was the lead singer for Euphoria. In actual fact, the main vocal on "Love You Right" was performed by Keren Minshull, who only briefly appears in the music video — I think she's one of the silhouettes. Meanwhile, Andrew got to appear in the clip and even lip sync to his own backing vocals. If "Love You Right" had ended up as an under-the-radar club track, the substitution of Holly for Keren would probably never have been exposed. But people started to ask questions when the piano house track went all the way to the top of the singles chart. Questions that were swiftly addressed in the follow-up, which we'll see in May next year...
Number 11 "Word Is Out" by Kylie Minogue
Peak: number 10
Next up, an Australian singer who'd been very careful to sing live whenever she could — including on her two-part 1991 tour (the Rhythm Of Love tour had visited Australia and Asia in February/March; the Let's Get To It tour had recently wrapped up in Ireland). Let's Get To It was also the name of Kylie Minogue's fourth studio album, which I purchased at a stopover in Sweden on the way to France since I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. Before I'd left, I'd heard the lead single, "Word Is Out", and the CD I bought came with the UK version of the song you can hear below.
What I didn't realise until I got home was that Kylie's Australian record company had opted to go with a different mix of the song for the local release. Perhaps it was a good move to go with the slinkier Frankie Knuckles-style Summer Breeze mix here, since "Word Is Out" became Kylie's 10th top 10 hit in Australia, while the new jack swing-influenced original became her first single to miss the top 10 in the UK, peaking at a dismal (for her) number 16.
I've always thought part of the problem with "Word Is Out" is its music video, in which Kylie appeared to be playing a prostitute. It was one thing for her music with Stock and Waterman (Aitken had abandoned ship by this point) to be moving away from her normal sound, but it was probably pushing the envelope too much on the image side of things. It would turn out to be the start of a tumultuous couple of years for Kylie on the Australian and UK charts.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1991:
Next week: a dance classic that Kylie Minogue has recently covered, plus a rap superstar makes one of the most expensive (and self-indulgent) music videos of all time.